How Employers Can Outpace Soaring Compensation Expectations

by Desiree Grosman in , May 30th, 2023

Recruiting top-notch employees and keeping them happy is a real challenge these days, especially when it comes to pay and benefits. If you're feeling the heat, don't worry, you're not alone!

Team Engine regularly meets with our users — employers in deskless fields like construction, manufacturing, and the home services. And we hear your frustrations with compensation.

Skilled trades employers feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, you need to pay competitive salaries or risk losing top talent. On the other hand, budget constraints can make it difficult to keep up with rising compensation expectations.

We've come up with some strategies you can use to stay ahead of the competition and give your current employees what they want. Here's how to outpace soaring compensation expectations and build a talented team that stays with you long-term.

The Struggle is Real: Industry Challenges and Pain Points

Let's first acknowledge some common themes and pain points that employers like you experience in blue collar industries. After speaking to our users during recent webinars and interviews, we have gathered some compelling insights that you might be nodding your head to:

  • Feeling like you can't offer competitive salaries
  • Losing employees to companies with bigger budgets
  • Not being able to offer unique benefits or perks or not knowing what perks will motivate your employees
  • Struggling to explain the value of total compensation during recruitment 
  • Having difficulty creating offers that match talent expectations
  • Feeling like you've exhausted your talent pool

Whether you're just starting out or you've been in business for a while, these challenges can make hiring and retention an uphill battle. And with the staggering inflation and supply-chain shortages, the pressure is really on.

While we understand the reality of these issues, and we don't want to downplay how difficult they are, we do have some strategies for overcoming them.

Make 'Total Compensation' Your New Best Friend

Many job seekers don't realize just how valuable total compensation can be. Honestly, they're thinking too narrowly. Hourly rates are important, sure. But it's essential to have a bigger picture mindset when it comes to compensation.

So when you're trying to attract and retain talent, highlight the value of total compensation in addition to salaries. This includes benefits like health insurance, PTO, retirement plans, and special perks (ideas on that below!). This will help you create a competitive compensation package that fits your budget. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that non-salary benefits made up an average of 30% of a worker’s entire compensation package in 2020, illustrating just how integral total compensation is for both employers and employees. 

Plus, it's a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Use your recruitment process as an opportunity to showcase that you're taking care of employees in more ways than one.

And your current employees are your best advocates. They can even help you highlight the value of total compensation in your recruitment process. So leverage their enthusiasm, and let them be your secret weapon.

Manage Pay Raises and Expectations with Clarity

It's no secret that pay raises are a great way to motivate your team. But if you're not careful, they can quickly get out of hand.

The key is to establish clear guidelines around increases so you don't overcommit yourself. Use metrics and benchmarks to track performance and justify raises. Plus, make sure employees understand what they need to do to earn them. Here are some great tips from Harvard Business Review on how to respond when an employee asks for a raise.

It's also important to be transparent about salary ranges and expectations. This can help prevent unpleasant surprises later on. In fact, 17 states now have pay transparency laws, and there are more on the way. You can read all about how to stay compliant with these changes here.

Stand Out with Unique Perks

Silicon Valley tech startups have popularized unique perks as a recruitment tool, and it's high time the skilled trades industry takes notice.

A 2016 study by Glassdoor reveals that a whopping 60% of people view benefits and perks as critical when deciding whether to take up a job offer. And a more recent Forbes Advisor study in 2023 found that an astonishing 40% of employers indicate that their employees leave them in search of roles with better benefits.

You don't need to provide smoothie bars, foosball tables, or in-house massages to make an impact. Just because you don’t have a massive budget or your employees primarily work out in the field, doesn't mean that you can’t offer them anything.

Simple, cost-effective options exist that will make your business stand out from the competition:

  • Advancement and education opportunities to develop their skills
  • Flexible work hours, especially for employees with families or side gigs
  • Wellness benefits like gym memberships and mental health days
  • Commuter benefits for those who travel to the job site
  • Profit sharing plans to show that you appreciate their efforts to grow your business

Most of your competition is probably already offering standard benefits on top of pretty solid compensation, so if you can add a few unique perks to the mix, you'll have a much better chance of standing out.

Commute and Distance Dilemmas

Long commutes can be a big barrier to hiring and retaining workers. And in deskless industries, employees who expect to spend a lot of time on the road or have to travel long distances just to get to the job site are often put off by these roadblocks.

We already mentioned commuter benefits as a unique perk, which is a great way to demonstrate that you're invested in their comfort and convenience. But workplace flexibility is often the bigger deal breaker.

According to a recent Oliver Wyman Forum study, during Covid-19, blue-collar workers faced tough and unsafe conditions while white-collar employees enjoyed remote work. Interestingly, 80% of those frontline blue-collar workers who decided to make a transition to office roles succeeded in leaving their old roles.

To overcome commute struggles for deskless employees, offering flexible work schedules similar to their white-collar counterparts could make a big difference.

Remote work is becoming increasingly popular, and not just for desk-based roles: it's being adopted by tradespeople too (here's how to make that shift). By offering the opportunity to work remotely or flexible hours, you can increase your chances of attracting and retaining top talent. And this goes hand in hand with what we'll discuss below.

Cultivate Your Company Culture

We know "culture" has become the latest buzzword in the business world, but that doesn't mean it's overrated. The right culture can make all the difference in your ability to attract and keep great employees.

A recent webinar with Nathan Tebedo, the Lead Coach at ContractorCoachPRO, unveiled the recipe for developing a culture that actually drives results. He noted that key elements like clear goals and expectations, communication, collaboration, recognition and appreciation, are absolutely essential.

No one wants to work in a toxic environment or for a boss that doesn't care about them as a person, so creating a workplace that's fun and encourages development can go a long way.

This is especially important in industries with long, grueling days and dangerous jobs.

And that brings us to the most important component: work-life balance.

The Forbes Advisor study we mentioned earlier reveals that of all the components of company culture, work-life balance is by far the most widely valued among both employers and employees. So it comes back to offering those flexible hours and work-from-home options that we talked about earlier.

Compensation can only get you so far if your culture isn't attractive. Use your recruitment process to illustrate how well your company values the time and energy of its employees and you'll have a bigger pool of talent to choose from.

Working Conditions Woes

The physically demanding nature of some blue-collar jobs can make employee retention tricky.  Poor working conditions and longer hours can hinder motivation and eventually lead to burnout. And at that point, no amount of compensation can bring them back. So employers need to find ways to make the job enjoyable and rewarding.

Prioritize safety, invest in equipment and tools that increase productivity, and promote team building so employees feel more connected. Also, keep communication channels open to ensure everyone feels valued and respected.

Remember, you're not alone in navigating the stormy waters of recruitment and soaring compensation expectations in the skilled trades. And Team Engine is here to support you every step of the way.

Compensation will always be part of the equation, but by streamlining your recruiting and hiring process, you can focus on all the strategies above that will make your company as attractive as possible to potential employees.

Team Engine can help simplify everything from posting on various job boards, sifting through resumes, pre-screening candidates, scheduling interviews, and tracking candidate progress. Grab your free trial here!

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